Monday, May 29, 2006

Bring back two-pocket shirts!

I don't know exactly when men's shirts with two pockets were last made and sold and worn in America, but I do know that they have all but disappeared from stores great and small, and I can't figure out why, and I resent it. I would like to request the world's clothiers to return to making TWO POCKET MEN'S SHIRTS as God intended.

Perhaps some might say a single pocket looks neater, sleeker, more chest-flattering on a man. Well, may be. But I doubt if men prefer them. Since we don't carry purses (most of us), we need two shirt pockets, bulging or not. And how many men fuss about such things? I mean, we stick pencils behind our ears for gosh sakes. Or maybe the two-pocket Hawaiian god-awful baggy sport shirts worn under a cigar, mustache, and dark glasses of the '50's and '60's just gave them a bad name. But I still doubt it.

No, I don't buy the aesthetics argument. One could argue the second pocket is needed for balance. In fact, for the life of me I can't understand any reason for making single pocket shirts other than simple greed. It probably costs a fraction of a cent less to not make the second pocket, and some lazy child labor cheeseball somewhere is making a few more bucks from the accumulated miniscule savings. But it's not like these rags are hand-tailored; second pockets aren't labor-intensive. They're all computer-manufactured by the hundreds of thousands in big machines in seconds anyway and shipped all over the world. And it doesn't cost any appreciable amount more to tell the computer assisted seamstress design to sew on a second pocket, or the square centimeter seamstress to allow the extra material. How much more material is in a pocket, after all? I mean, heck, take an inch all the way around off the length, if that will be enough for the second pocket. The bottom doesn't show anyway; it's (usually) worn tucked inside the trousers.

I last remember buying some seersucker two-pocket summer white dress shirts at a K-mart in my Indiana home town about fifteen years ago, and I haven't seen any since. As a teacher, I always carry too much for one pocket, and teaching in South Florida's often steaming heat, I don't wear an outer sport coat any more than I have to, so I always face the same problem: whether to face the world with a bulging single shirt pocket or stow some of my gear in my trouser pockets till I look like an equipment-challenged photographer, swinging his big genie pants from side to side around my thighs as I walk. I sometimes tear that single shirt pocket, it gets so full.

Okay, I'll admit that over the years, I've come to carry too much junk with me for my own good. And I suppose I have no right to complain unless I fess up to that junk: a cell phone of course, and a day-minder approintment book, pen, reading glasses, chewing gum (I quit smoking in 1997; the gum's my smokes now), and usually my insulin pen, since I'm diabetic. Which of these would I prefer to stow in my pants pocket? None. I reach for them all when I drive, for one thing. Ever try to wrestle stuff out of your pants pocket when you're strapped down by a seat belt, or get your change ready at a toll booth or drive-through window?

Lately, the only two-pocket shirts I've located are on Jungle Jim safari outfits that look like they should come with a pith helmet, and a few on heavy medical-looking uniforms that look like they should be worn under a stethoscope. Oh--and one I found in Orlando that just didn't look like me. I don't do fiesta shiny black and silver stretch fabric with pearl buttons--not that I have anything against those who do.

But things may finally be changing, albeit ever-so-slowly. I found a few two-pocket sports shirts at Penneys in various colors and scarfed them up, and a couple of others at Old Navy. I still haven't found any lightweight ones or dress ones anywhere, but the fact that someone is trying to make and sell them again at all is encouraging. Surely the two-pocket shirt will return someday. Sure hope it's before my few threadbare ones left wear out completely.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It must be summer

What a weekend! All three of my adult sons had big deals cooking.

Mark absconded from Orlando to New York last August to find his fortune but forgot to renew his Florida license before he left. Leaving his car here in Florida, he managed to live a year in Manhattan by not driving on his expired license, but it caught up with him when he came back to Orlando to visit last weekend. Not by driving and getting pulled over, but at the airport where he got delayed from boarding his return flight and double-searched. He finally convinced them he wasn't a terrorist or ne'er-do-well despite his growing hair and got to board, but the experience convinced him to renew. It arrived here, good through 2011, and I forwarded it to him.

Doctor Steve somehow sold me his generator, bought for the hurricane season from hell last year but never used, so he could buy a more powerful unit he needs for working at the lot he and Rhonda hope to build on one day, during the tax break period till June 11 in Florida. The state is suspending state taxes (6%) on hurricane-preparation items before the new season begins (sigh) June 1. He's a tough customer to bargain with, but I got him down by $1.00 from what he paid. Guess I showed him who the smartie is in this family, huh. This one generates 3500 watts. He wants at least 5000. Since we won't be air conditioning even one room with it, just keeping the food cold and running a few lights and the tv if the power fails for days as it did last year, I think 3500's about right for us, and I was probably going to shop for one anyway.

But media specialist Scott stole the cake by springing for a new condo. He got tired of the annual raise-the-rent letters. Last year they hit him for new appliances and more rent on top of it, and this year they socked on an added $150 per month. He's paid faithfully for about five years and been a stable, responsible tenant. So much for loyalty. He began looking at getting a house or condo since he got that letter a couple of weeks ago, found financing favorable to educators through a bank, educated himself from scratch about buying a home and sought advice from us as his parents who have been through the process several times, his fellow teachers, and his homeowner bro and his invaluable, tireless homespotter-dealsniffer sister-in-law, who came down to Orlando and helped him find the best little condo he could afford in this market, in a great area. I'm very proud of his comparison shopping and decision-making process. He takes his time and "sleeps on it," as he says. But yesterday he put down his deposit and made his move. Way to go, Scott!

Every year I say, surely this year no one in the family will be moving this summer. Last year Mark pulled out to NY to take an internship and bounced around till he found his niche and a small apartment, and finally a great job in his field. This year it's Scott's turn at the moving bug. Who will be next? I wonder. I guess it just goes with the season. Fall, winter, and spring we store our acorns and do our jobs and live our schedules, but summer is clearly when the whole planet seems to play musical chairs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's That Smile?

Just my luck to be teaching art appreciation when the Da Vinci Code came out. Usually I get a lot of Sistine Chapel papers and Davids, but this year everybody turned in a paper on the Mona Lisa, replete with schtick about Opus Dei, the Louvre connection, secret codes and Tom Hanks' dressing room. I swore after reading over a dozen some had to be copies of others, but they weren't; they were just often using similar sources.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Of all the Idol finalists who were eliminated, I expect to miss Kelly Pickler the most. That surprises me, because I never voted nor would have voted to keep her for her singing, which wasn't wide-ranging enough outside her country mainstream to pull through the challenges of music she wasn't familiar with: the American Songbook per Rod Stewart, the Queen songs, the Love Songs per Boccelli--man, she was so lost doing those I knew her fan base couldn't save her three weeks before she finally bit the dust. But of all the idol contenders left standing--and I believe any of them could win it all--I think Kelly will have the most stellar career, and we're just seeing the beginning of a superstar.

But I think I know what America loves about her: she is a true innocent. She has the natural beauty of a Britney Spears but without the staged personna and crafted sexiness. She is sexy the way Carrie Underwood could be sexy when she wanted to: from within, not from coaching and career managers. Like Carrie, Kelly has the naivete of a young Dolly Parton, and the same honesty. She has found through her Idol odyssey the confidence and assurance she needed to come of age, still with enough natural craftiness to stay clear of the wolfpacks who would exploit her. When Simon Cowell called her a "saucy minx," she wasn't being coy to reply "I'm a mink?" She is an original, bona fide innocent, so much so that I don't see her corrupted by Hollywood, the music industry, or anyone else. She can handle herself well with the remarks of a Leno or a Couric, and she can only grow in popularity.

Front Porch

The world's too big to grasp in one lifetime, to experience all life can offer, to explore all the paths I might follow. At twenty I wanted everything and wanted to do everything and be all that I could be, as the recruiting slogan goes; but approaching sixty-seven I'm learning I need to choose what I still want to try to do and try to avoid, and adjusting my goals accordingly.

Life is so full of wonder and possibility and meaning, to me, that I feel I can never really understand it or control it. I can only deal with a small part of it, can only know and experience a small section of its possibilities in my lifetime. And I seem to need to do so from a central sense of identity and being in time and place. Most advice says we need to live in the present, but my present is very rooted in my past, by choice. If it were not, I fear I might often find this time and place almost intolerably confusing and frighteningly hostile, and I don't know if I could function.

Though I live in 2006, I basically ground myself in the 1940's and 1950's because that's when I was growing up and adjusting to the world. In that sense, I am a product of another time and place. I live in South Florida today, but I am still at heart a Hoosier, small-town boy, where the seasons change and people seem more real to me than here. That's my center. That's when I learned who I was and what I believed, what I liked and what I could do, what I wanted, hoped for, feared and needed to avoid. I still feel more comfortable at Disney MGM studios with its swing era music and art deco streets than I do at Epcot's Innovations and world of tomorrow. I was nurtured and loved in this process by my mom and dad and Roger, my older brother by ten years.

Physically, that center is gone now. My home at 34 W. Park Drive is bulldozed away and paved over for another Bailey's Mortuary parking lot. Mom and Dad are gone, Roger gone, everyone scattered by time and distance and replaced along the way with new people, new homes, new cars, new things and activities in my present world in South Florida.

I have my new family, thank God, who love me and whom I love dearly, at the center of my new life since marriage. But my old center, the child I was, the hopes, dreams, fears and wonder I had then, the desires, goals, beliefs and understanding I had then, the passions, compulsions, mannerisms and habits I had then, remain at my core.

I am still who I was then, even as I have become older, perhaps more cautious, perhaps wiser or smarter, perhaps better in some ways and worse in others. I am still that child trying to gather that world I knew around me. And the cushioned couch I now write from, as I stare out through the sliders at the patio and through the screens to the great world outside, is the same front porch glider I curled up on to draw pictures from then, as I stared out through those front porch screens at the great world outside I saw then.